There is an American tradition of immigrating to a city to find a better life by taking whatever job can be found and living as frugally as possible. That generation wants something better for the next, instilling the same work ethic while seeing that their children have an education so that they can find an affluence that the grandparents back home could only dream of. Often times that means moving out of the city, to the suburbs where they bring their culture and traditions: Jewish delis in Connecticut, Irish Pubs on the South Shore, Indian Sweet & Spice shops and Sari vendors in Artesia outside of Los Angeles, etc.
Across the country these days the same is happening for the Chinese. For example, in Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley is the place to go for Chinese food; any kind of Chinese food, Szechwan, Cantonese, Shanghai-se, Northern, Southern, Islamic, etc Chinatown itself having given way to the Vietnamese as well as hipster art galleries and artists’ studios.
The same is happening in Boston now. The Vietnamese have a foothold in Dorchester and Quincy is quickly emerging as the new epicenter of all things Asian. Thai restaurants, Thai massage, Indian Restaurants, Asian markets.
In a shopping center located next to a police and security guard uniform store and a Sally’s beauty supplies is the Quincy outpost of China Pearl Dim Sum.
When visiting on a Sunday, the first challenge is to find a parking space. Once inside a greeter hands you a blue ticket with your number while she shouts out “10 to 15 minutes” out one side of her mouth almost simultaneously announcing the next table to be seated.
Dim Sum halls or “Tea Houses” are traditionally noisy and cavernous, and China Pearl is no exception. Extended families gathering for a brunch of “little bites” (Dim Sum) while sipping tea (Yum Cha). Tables of 12 are not uncommon. Women are pushing carts of steamed dumplings, griddled fresh noodles, fried spring rolls, and tofu custard dessert.
China Pearl has a buffet in the back with a few of the basics so once you get your table you can head back and load up on Fried Calamari, steamed clams in black bean sauce, braised duck feet (which are exceptional, my 3-year old chowed down 4 of them!) as well as steamed chinese broccoli (gai lon) and stacks of bamboo steamers with various dumplings and other goodies.
Your check is stamped as you choose each dish and back at the table to women do the same as they drop each requested dish onto your table.
I must confess that I have just moved here from Los Angeles and this was my first foray into Boston Chinese food and while my hosts were very deprecating when I told them I had just moved here, China Pearly was fantastic.
Every dish was perfectly executed. When having a meal like this I often wonder what could be better at any price. Our check came to a whopping $37!
The highlights were a shrimp paste coated in taro shreds and pan fried and the duck feet, braised in a dark brown sugar sauce spiked with star anise.
Dim Sum is a great way to push your culinary tastes. Try something, if you don’t like it you’re out just a couple of bucks.
All great chow is the result of taking the bits that the rich didn’t want and figuring out how to make it taste good (what was in the sausage and peppers you ate last week?) and great Hong Kong Chinese proves the rule.
Who would think a 3-year old would scarf down duck feet!